Gordon MP Richard Thomson has urged the UK Government to ‘get a grip’ of their response to the Post Office Horizon IT equipment scandal.
Between 2000 and 2014, over 700 sub-postmasters were prosecuted based on information from the Horizon system, which saw staff wrongly accused of theft, fraud and false accounting.
However, in December 2019 a High Court judge ruled that the system contained a number of “bugs, errors and defects” and there was a “material risk” that shortfalls in Post Office branch accounts were in fact caused by the Horizon system.
Since then, many sub-postmasters have had their criminal convictions overturned, although not before some were sent to prison for crimes they never committed and some even took their own lives.
Commenting, Richard Thomson MP said:
“While it’s only right that the sub-postmasters who have had their reputations and their lives publicly traduced for crimes they never committed should receive substantial compensation, the UK Government’s handling of this has been woeful and it’s time they got a grip.
“In recent weeks, the Minister for Business and Trade has had to make a statement to Parliament outlining special measures so those affected and receiving compensation do not lose out due to the tax system. Essentially, had they not been forced out of their jobs and continued earning a salary, they would have paid less tax.
“Happily, the Minister recognised this in time and the sub-postmasters shouldn’t lose out. But then just 10 days later, the Treasury has had to announce that the compensatory payments will be exempt from Inheritance Tax. Whilst welcome, all of these details should have been ironed-out at the outset.
“The affected sub-postmasters – which includes a number of cases in Scotland and Aberdeenshire – have been through quite enough and deserve their compensation package to be smoothly administered.”